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Sourdough Rye Bread

Sourdough Rye Bread has a complex flavor thanks to the sourdough starter, rye flour and a little dash of malt syrup. Start the night before to have fresh bread for lunch.

a loaf of sourdough rye bread on a cutting board

I’m a huge fan of rye bread in just about any form. I love my Overnight Rye Bread made with commercial yeast, and my super thin and crunchy Sourdough Rye Crispbread. If you’re a rye fan, for a real treat try making a savory pie or galette with Rye Pie Dough.

I grew up in central New Jersey (yes, there is such a place as central Jersey!) and being so close to New York it was easy to find a good deli and really great rye bread.

Where I live now, not so much. So, Sourdough Rye Bread is always homemade in our house. But it’s so easy to make overnight there’s no reason not to make it yourself.

If you don’t have one, you can learn How to Make a Sourdough Starter. Then I can show you how to Feed and Maintain Sourdough Starter or How to Keep a Small Sourdough Starter.

This recipe takes more than 12 hours in total, but the vast majority of the time is hands-off.

Tips for making Sourdough Rye Bread:

  • Start with an active starter. To test if your sourdough starter is active and ready to use, drop a dollop into a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s ready to go.
  • Create a sponge using the starter, water and some of the flour. Allow the sponge to rest for 30-60 minutes before mixing the dough. This rest gives the gluten a head start in forming a strong network.
  • The fermentation time for the dough will vary based on the ambient temperature of the room and the temperature of your dough. The dough will start out fairly dense. It should be quite aerated and elastic by the end of the 3 hour fermentation.
  • If the dough is very cool and sluggish you can set the bowl over a bowl of warm water to warm it up a bit.
  • The time for the final proof can also vary. The bread should be almost doubled in size and if you poke the dough the dent should slowly fill in. If the dough springs right back when poked it’s not quite ready.
  • Sourdough Rye Bread stays fresh at room temperature for 2-3 days. Slice and freeze for longer storage.

Scroll Through the step by step photos to see how to make Sourdough Rye Bread:

a bread starter in a mixer bowl with a mixing paddle.
Mix the starter with the water, rye flour and 1 cup of the bread flour. Set aside for 30-60 minutes to activate the gluten.
Rye bread dough sitting on a couter top.
The dough will be soft and a little sticky right after mixing. The texture will develop while the dough is fermenting.
two bowls of sourdough rye bread dough, before and after rising.
With each hour of fermentation the dough will rise higher and become more elastic and “lively”.
sourdough rye bread with caraway seeds added
First thing in the morning, knead in the caraway seeds and shape the loaf.
A loaf of sourdough rye bread before and after rising.
When the loaf has almost doubled in volume, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with more caraway seeds and bake.

A timeline for making Sourdough Rye Bread:

  • If your starter needs feeding, do that the night before or early in the morning of the day you want to make the dough.
  • Mix the dough in the afternoon and refrigerate the dough in the evening before going to bed.
  • Take the dough out first thing in the morning and shape the loaf.
  • Leave the loaf at room temperature to rise for 1 1/2- 2 hours.
  • You should have fresh bread by lunch time.
  • To make and bake the dough in the same day, start the dough early in the morning and it should be ready to bake by late in the afternoon or early evening.
a loaf of sliced sourdough rye bread on a cutting board.
a hand holding a slice of sourdough rye bread
The sourdough rye as an open and irregular crumb and great chewy texture.

Since you’ve got your starter fed, peruse the entire list of My Best Sourdough Recipes. Have fun!

I know you hate to throw away that sourdough discard. Check out these recipes that use sourdough discard.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

slices of sourdough rye bread on a cutting board

Sourdough Rye Bread

Yield: 1 large or 2 small loaves
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
Rising Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 45 minutes

Start the night before to have fresh bread for lunch.


  • 1 cup (8 oz, 224g) active sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 360ml) warm water
  • 1 cup (5oz, 145g) stone ground rye flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz, 350g) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon malt syrup
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 egg white


  1. Combine the starter, water, rye flour and 1 cup of the bread flour. Mix with the paddle on low speed until it forms a thick batter. Cover the bowl and set aside for 30-60 minutes.
  2. If using a stand mixer, change to the dough hook. Add the malt syrup, salt and the rest of the bread flour and mix until the dough begins to clean the bottom of the bowl and form a ball around the hook. If the dough is still extremely sticky and does not clear the sides of the bowl, you can add up to 1/4 cup more flour, a tablespoon at a time. If mixing by hand add as much of the bread flour as you can then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and finish kneading in the rest of the flour.
  3. Knead for 3-4 minutes on medium speed or 4-5 minutes by hand. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat the dough. Cover the bowl and set it aside at room temperature.
  4. After 30 minutes uncover the bowl, lift one side of the dough and fold it into the middle of the dough. Repeat with the other three sides of the dough then flip the dough over. You're basically turning the dough inside-out to redistribute the yeast. Cover the bowl and after 30 minutes repeat the procedure. Cover the bowl and after 60 minutes repeat the procedure again.
  5. Cover the bowl and after 60 minutes knead the dough, return it to the bowl. By now the dough should be lively, elastic and airy. If the dough is still sluggish give it another hour or two at room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate over night.
  6. Remove from refrigerator and dump the cold dough onto floured surface. Sprinkle the dough with 1 tablespoon caraway seeds and knead to distribute the seeds
  7. If you want two smaller loaves, divide the dough in half. Knead the dough into a smooth ball then taper two ends to form an oblong football shape. If baking in a Dutch oven form the dough into a round ball.
  8. Place on a wooden peel or sheet pan sprinkled liberally with corn meal. If you want to bake the bread in a Dutch oven place the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size and it springs back slowly when poked, about 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. If you have a baking stone preheat that in the oven. If you want to bake the bread in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot put that in the oven to preheat.
  10. Make 5 diagonal slashes in the dough with a single edge razor or very sharp knife. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with the other tablespoon of caraway seeds.
  11. Slide the dough onto the preheated stone or slide the sheet pan into the oven. The bread is ready when tapping the bottom of the loaf produces a hollow sound, or use a probe thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 190°-200°F. Baking time is about 35 minutes.
  12. If using the Dutch oven to bake follow these directions: Remove the preheated pan from the oven and remove the lid. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf into the Dutch oven. If you don't have a Dutch oven, slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Replace the lid on the pot and slide it into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven. The loaf should be well risen and pale in color. Continue baking another 20 minutes until the loaf is nicely browned and beginning to crisp. Remove the pan from the oven. Use the parchment to lift the loaf out of the pan. Use the parchment to place the loaf directly onto the rack in the oven. Bake another 5-10 minutes until the loaf is deeply browned and very crisp. Total baking time is about 40-50 minutes.
  13. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Did you make this recipe?

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Saturday 10th of April 2021

Delicious recipe! Very soft, and love the egg wash caraway top. I used molasses; I've never bought or used malt syrup. Making it a second time, I noticed the water was in milliliters rather than grams which I didn't notice or expect. Now I know why I needed more flour the first time!


Friday 2nd of April 2021

I’ve made this recipe several times and always works like a charm, it’s delicious rye bread! I have a question though. I recently ordered a 25lb bag of rye flour (call me crazy, but it was way cheaper that way), so my question is have you ever made it with more rye, like half rye half bread flour? Or does that change the texture too much?


Saturday 3rd of April 2021

@Eileen Gray, thanks for the reply. One other question, have you ever doubled this recipe? I was hoping to make two loaves at a time. But I wasn’t sure if it would be too much for the mixer or if the amounts work just being doubled.

Eileen Gray

Saturday 3rd of April 2021

Yes, the texture will change the more rye flour you add. Rye bread is not good at making gluten. At some point adding more and more rye flour would tip the scales and make the bread more dense. You'd have to gradually increase the amount of rye to find out when it's too much.


Friday 2nd of April 2021

I grew up in N.J. and my dad would bring home sourdough rye bead that was baked in N.Y.C. The loaves were enormous and cut in fourths for sale. Have not had any in 65 years and was really wanting one more taste of sour rye. Found some whole rye flour at a mill in a nearby state that shipped and took a chance. Your recipes gave me an active starter and I've been making 2 loaves of sourdough rye every 2 weeks for months. My crumb is not as open and airy but the bread is delicious, not quite like I remember but my memory is probably off at 82, taste buds are off too but ever so happy.......Thank you.

Eileen Gray

Friday 2nd of April 2021

That's wonderful to hear, Barbara.


Sunday 28th of March 2021

I made this recipe. It creates a simply AMAZING loaf of wonderful sourdough rye bread. But I can never exactly follow a recipe, so I added the caraway at the same time as the other ingredients; I did not use egg white; I scored differently than called for; I did not add caraway to the top of the loaf; I baked at 475 for 35 minutes lid on and 20 lid off in my Romertopf baker (I'm at a high altitude so baking temps and time differ from lower elevations) to an internal temperature of 205f. I'll tell you what, the house smelled so amazing with this bread baking ... My loaf looks a little wonky, but who cares? I love the 'rustic' look in a loaf of bread. I could not and did not resist the temptation to cut into the loaf fresh from the oven. This is just amazing bread! Very crusty outside with a cloud-soft, light, open crumb, so flavorful! Unbelievable! I'll be making this more and more.

Michele Vaughn

Saturday 20th of March 2021

This is the best recipe ever! I love this loaf! I make a mixture of seeds and flaky salt for the crust! Devine!

Eileen Gray

Saturday 20th of March 2021

I love using flaky salt as a garnish. The little crunchy pops of salt are devine.